The Doctor Who Project: Ranking Series 5

Greetings, Whovians, and welcome to the new era! What era is that, do you ask? Well if you've followed the show this far, then you would know we reviewed the regeneration of David Tennant last week, and he turned into this fellow:

Who eventually turned into this fellow:

Although I've glimpsed upon a lot of Doctor Who episodes over the years, I still consider Matt Smith my first Doctor, because he's the one who finally managed to get me to sit up and pay attention. My favorite thing about him is that he has this youthful face, but you can see an old and dark soul lurking inside him (and this becomes more profound as the show goes on). He also feels the most alien of the rebooted Doctors thus far, and I'm pretty sure Peter Capaldi is only going to strengthen that feeling. But enough pontificating on the wonder of all that is Matt Smith. Let's get down to the episodes! And if you want to read up on all the exploits of Jaime, Justin, and I starting way back at Chris Eccleston and our top ten favorites, visit our compendium!

Episode 1: The Eleventh Hour

With his TARDIS in ruins, the newly-regenerated Doctor with the help of Amy Pond must save the world in less than twenty minutes from galactic policemen known as the Atraxi. (IMDB)

Justin: Matt Smith takes control of the Doctor in his eleventh incarnation. My first instincts were not favorable towards him. I was so used to David's face that this boy who couldn't shave could hardly save the world/universal/time continuum. I would forge on. Have faith in the show. Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) was lovely, but I could do without that annoying nurse guy Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). The crack in the wall brought some interesting questions. The Atraxi aka giant eyeball thing wasn't a great villain, but did a good job of not upstaging the newest Doctor. The best part was our Time Lord going from being "raggedy" to becoming "cool" while we see all the Doctors flash on screen. 6 Sonics

Jaime: I thought this was a great welcome to the new Doctor. I could already tell Eleven was going to be as brilliant as Ten, but with a little added insanity. The scenes with him and young Amelia in the kitchen are hilarious. I didn't know how to feel about a new Doctor and a new companion all at one time. It was a little bit of a growing period for me. But Amy Pond has that independent spirit that all companions need. The story itself was only okay, though the comatose patients were a bit creepy. And the crack in the wall definitely opened up some questions. New Doctor, new companion, new showrunner, new TARDIS. Whoa, a lot to take in. 6 Sonics

Allison: Since I actually started lapping up Doctor Who toward the end of the very season we're currently reviewing, the switch from Tennant to Smith wasn't QUITE as jarring as it was for Justin and Jaime (or my daughter, though by her account she fell in love with Smith from the get-go). But it's very hard to deny the obvious shift in tone from the previous two Doctors and I think if I were in their shoes I would have struggled more. This incarnation doesn't seem to carry any memory at all of his previous two lives, and I think that's what makes it the most difficult. New showrunner has changed everything, such that it almost feels like a new show altogether. Even so, I really enjoyed this episode, from the funny antics in the kitchen with young Amelia Pond to the events later after the little girl grows up into the fiery Amy we come to know and love. Yeah, Rory is a little bit of a whiny twit and the eyeball alien is a little meh, but I think it's a fine jumping off point for a new Doctor. And I love that bowtie and swagger. 7 Sonics

Average Sonics

x 6.3

Episode 2: The Beast Below

The Doctor takes Amy to the future inside Starship UK, which contains in addition to British explorers, an intimidating race known as the Smilers. (IMDB)

Justin: Remember I said it's either the past or future for a companion's first trip (Rose: future, Martha & Donna: past), and we go with my favorite option. It's not a terrible episode, but I still wasn't sure about this new Doctor and/or companion. I did enjoy the philosophical idea behind the show, but that was about it. 4 Sonics

Jaime: Forgettable. I had to go back and read about this one. Though I kind of remember it, the only thing I remember liking about it was Liz 10. For those reasons, it's not getting many sonics from me. 2 Sonics

Allison: This episode had elements I liked. The setting had a real Dark City kind of feel to it, and some of the side characters were neat (Liz 10). Also, the visual of Amy floating outside the TARDIS in space was neat, and again, I just kind of dig the attitude of this Doctor. But despite the interesting themes and the great production design, the pacing of this episode failed, and by the end I was already kind of disinterested and ready for it to be over. 4 Sonics

Average Sonics

x 3.3

Episode 3: Victory of the Daleks

The TARDIS takes The Doctor and Amy to war-torn Britain in the middle of World War Two. Not only do they meet Winston Churchill himself, but the Doctor comes face to face once again with his greatest enemy of all. (IMDB)

Justin: This--to me--seemed to be a fun episode. There were the ever so serious Daleks, but it had an enjoyable vibe to it. The fact the Doctor's ego makes everything go south was also interesting, and you up with the Skittles version of the bad guys. Trivia time: Ian McNeice who portrays Churchill starred in a movie called Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger! in which he was the dad to two David Tennant characters. 5 Sonics

Jaime: The Daleks and Winston Churchill. Good premise, but overall not a great episode. You do get to see some of the Doctor's old anger return, and Amy proves to be an asset to have around. Felt like filler to me. More questions about the crack in the wall, though... 4 Sonics

Allison: This is one of the better of the Mark Gatiss-penned episodes up to this point of the show as a whole, but it still is far from perfect. I know the big technicolor Daleks really pissed off a lot of the purist fans, but when it comes to Daleks, I'm colorblind. The problem with this episode was there was just too much of it crammed into a single episode, and it kind of numbed my brain a bit. Still, it does push my love button for the mix of WWII with future/alien tech, and the performances both on the part of Ian McNeice and Bill Paterson were great. I also really enjoy the wartime propaganda artwork. Made into a two-parter, this really could have been something great. As such, 6 Sonics

Average Sonics

x 5 

Episode 4 & 5: The Time of the Angels/Flesh and Stone

The Doctor and Amy emerge from the TARDIS to find the wreck of the Byzantium spaceship. Down below the Weeping Angels are stirring, but the Doctor has someone else to contend with; none other than the mysterious Professor River Song. The Doctor, Amy, Dr. Song and the remaining soldiers manage to escape from the crashed ship and into the forest. The Angels attempt to create a rift in time and space much as the Doctor had found in Amy's room when they first met. Amy meanwhile is counting down from 10 minutes and the Doctor has determined that an Angel has taken over her mind. (IMDB)

Justin: Back in my review of The Impossible Planet (2.8) I mention that the translator the TARDIS provides doesn't jive with a later episode. The TARDIS lets the travelers understand any language by making said person believe it's in their native tongue. In 2.8 the TARDIS could not translate the language because it was so old. Completely understandable. However, in this episode the Doctor and Amy arrive in a museum and find a message from River Song, but Amy can't read it even though it's written in Gallifreyan. Shouldn't the TARDIS have translated it for her? Back to the show. The return of the Weeping Angels (in a more action packed way), the return of River, and even more crack in the wall business. A pretty solid set of episodes that were weighed down by my own neurosis. 4 Sonics

Jaime: This was a great two parter. The Weeping Angels and River Song. The first half had the creepy Weeping Angel vibe to it, and the second half had a pace that kept me at the edge of my seat. I don't think I will ever understand the Doctor and River's timeline, but their chemistry is wonderful. I always get excited for a River episode. And this was a good one. One thing I didn't understand was that now the Angels kill you. What happened to them just sending you back to the past? I feel like I missed something there. And please oh please don't let another companion fall for the Doctor. 7 Sonics

Allison: Before I get started with my review, I'd like to answer Justin's possible neurosis, because I've looked into this. The possible reason the TARDIS doesn't translate Gallifreyen is because it was designed by Timelords without companions in mind, and they wouldn't need their translator protocol to translate their native language. There is also some speculation that it was a protective mechanism the Timelords put in place to keep their scripts from being translated by anyone but other Timelords. This has actually been hinted at in some Classic Doctor episodes, though honestly, the translation circuit has a very spotty history on the show overall. As for this pair of episodes, I thought they were pretty awesome, and I particularly loved the beginning re-introduction to River Song, and the chilling visions of the Weeping Angel on the video footage. To answer Jaime's question about why the Angels were breaking necks in this episode (because I've also looked into this previously), it's because when they have a sufficient energy supply, they no longer have to feed off the quantum energy of sending their victims back in time. In this case, the energy was coming from the Starliner that was crashed in their cave, so the stone freaks were just snapping necks for kicks. Another creepy addition to the Angels that I liked this time was their ability to kill someone and then speak through them. The whole Cleric Bob thing was really chilling. I also like the further explanation of the crack in the wall that's been with us since the beginning of this season. And pay attention, because a part of Flesh and Bone is going to come back to visit us later on here (Timey-Wimey Alert!). 8 Sonics

Average Sonics

x 6.3

Episode 6: The Vampires of Venice

The Doctor and Amy cross swords in more ways than one with a horde of blood-sucking vampires in 16th century Venice. (IMDB)

Justin: I'm not sure why the summary above left Rory out, but he is a bit of a major player in this. It seemed a testing ground for how people would feel with him being a fellow companion. I recall liking him more than Mickey, but not by much. I'm bothered by the idea that monsters can't just be monsters. Werewolves, witches, and now vampires are all something else, something alien. Aliens are aliens. Why can't we just have some monsters? My favorite part: the Doctor producing his library card, and it having the First Doctor pictured. 4 Sonics 

Jaime: This episode was decent. Nothing really jumped out at me. I feel like it was a kind of get to know Rory episode. See how the three traveled together. I think Rory is very insightful when it comes to the Doctor and the three have a pretty good chemistry going. Though Venice was a beautiful backdrop for this story, and I'm a sucker for a good vampire story, the villains in this one just didn't do it for me. But the ending intrigued me. 5 Sonics

Allison: Alien Fish Vampires are only a shade or two above Farting Pig Aliens. Luckily, we don't see them pop up in anymore episodes. This whole thing was a bit of a forgettable mess for me, though I did like certain touches (good pick up, Justin, on the library card). It was nice to see them adding Rory into the mix, and I found him a lot less douchey than in his debut. 3 Sonics

Average Sonics

x 4

Episode 7: Amy's Choice

Five years after finally leaving the TARDIS Amy and Rory now married, live in the quiet little village of Leadworth.  But everything is not what it would seem. (IMDB)

Justin: Toby Jones as the Dream Lord. I like Toby in all his roles, even the ones I wasn't aware he was in (Dobby in the Harry Potter films), and seeing him in the Whoniverse was a big plus. Then you tie it into the "Life is but a dream" concept and you have quite the episode. I'm glad Amy chose Rory. I didn't want another Rose or batting eyes Martha, and the big brother/kid sister love was just fine with me. Oh, and Rory's ponytail was "hair-sterical". 7 Sonics

Jaime: I really dig this episode. It's kind of an alternate reality type of premise, and the Dream Lord is kind of terrifying. I felt the purpose of this episode was to lock down Amy and Rory as a couple, to drive out any lingering questions about another Doctor/companion romance. And thank you for that. I for one did not want to see that again. Also, the chemistry Amy and Rory has it was makes them such likable additions to the show. This is the episode when I finally accepted the new Doctor and his new companion(s). For that reason alone, it ranks high for me. 8 Sonics

Allison: Brilliantly constructed episode, with the Dream Lord making it impossible for the Doctor and his companions to be absolutely certain whether they're awake or dreaming, and then adding a major consequence to that decision should they choose a reality. This is the first time I really understand Amy's deep-running love for Rory, which makes me appreciate her fiery and irreverent humor even more. And yeah, Rory's hair. And Amy's pregnant belly ("You've swallowed a planet!" ~ The Doctor) were all great additions. Seven episodes in and I think we've finally achieved some excellence. 8 Sonics

Average Sonics

x 7.7

Episode 8 & 9: The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood

Intent on bringing them to Rio, the Doctor accidentally arrives at the site of a big drilling project, where he soon discovers the workers have disturbed an ancient reptilian race that has lived deep underground for thousands upon thousands of years, and who are determined to protect themselves against the 'apes' who live on the surface. (IMDB w/ some edits by Allison because the IMDB writer in this case was drunk)

Justin: These episodes reminded me of the Sontaran episodes from season four: a reintroduction to old Doctor Who villains that I just didn't care for, but--unknowingly at the time--would enjoy seeing later on. In another vernacular: snooze. 4 Sonics

Jaime: This was a weak two-parter in my opinion. The setting is a little creepy, and there is some great dialogue. But the rest is just blah. That is really the only word I can think of to describe my feelings for this one. Was it just me or did the Doctor not seem very concerned when Amy disappeared? And the lizard-people were just a little hard to swallow. But everyone lives, and that's a good thing. 4 Sonics

Allison: I found I liked this more than my friends, but only just. The Silurians are like a conspiracy theorist's wet dream sprung to life. Ermahgerd! Lerzerd Perple! I just found them to require a rather difficult yoga position for my disbelief (but that is some very impressive makeup!). As such, I never could quite get fully into the episode. When the lizard people return a good bit down the line in the show, I enjoy them quite a bit, but that's for another day. The ending of Cold Blood is a heartbreaker, though. Rory, we hardly knew ye. Or did we? 5 Sonics

Average Sonics

x 4.3

Episode 10: Vincent and the Doctor

Visiting a museum, the Doctor and Amy are especially excited with the gallery for Vincent van Gogh. Many of van Gogh pieces are displayed, including "The Church at Auvers (1890)". However there is something irregular discovered on the painting - a small alien image within a window pane. The Doctor quickly takes Amy back to 1890 where they locate the troubled artist that upsets the locals, cannot pay his bills, and is able to see an invisible monster that no one else is able to see. (IMDB)

Justin: This is a good example of how much heart a show like Doctor Who can have. Tony Curran does an exceptional job at portraying the troubled artist Van Gogh that you just want to shout through the screen that things will be better. It's not all darkness gloom & doom, and his name will be known for all time. The "monster/alien" was meh, but the point of the show was to focus on Vincent. Plus, anything with Bill Nighy is amazing. 8 Sonics

Jaime: This is in my top ten. It is just a beautiful episode. Everything about it jumps at the viewer. Well written, well acted, and so emotional. This story isn't about defeating a monster, this story is about Van Gogh. And it is so masterfully done. The ending. Oh, the ending. Very well done. This is a sign of the direction the show is going, I think. 10 Sonics

Allison: Something about this episode is like a giant, heavy thumb permanently mashed on my cry button. I wept the first time I saw this it (this also happens to be the first Doctor Who episode I watched all the way through). I cried the second time I watched it. I get misty-eyed when talking about it, and I'm even feeling it a bit now as I'm recalling it for the review. What appeals to one to be an artist but a great sad and lonely part of us that wants to be loved and remembered? The tragedy is that almost nothing will assuage that part of us, even if we could be whisked away to the future and be told that we will indeed be loved and remembered a century or more later. You can't magically "fix" people. But that doesn't mean there can't be moments of good and beauty and importance in an otherwise sad life. This episode marks the first of what will be some wonderful monologues from Matt Smith's Doctor that can be downright inspirational, and you get the sense that it might have saved a few lives, even if only for a bit, and maybe it still is. I can't love this episode enough. It's beautiful and it's sad. It spoke to me and it made me a fan of this show, such that when I reached the end of this season I went right back to the Ninth Doctor and watched it all from the beginning. 10 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 9.3

Episode 11: The Lodger

No sooner does the TARDIS land on Earth that it leaves again - but without the Doctor who had just stepped outside. The Doctor soon finds himself at the home of Craig Owens, who has been advertising for a lodger. There's clearly something odd in the house with people being lured to the upstairs room, but never reappearing, and the Doctor needs to investigate. (IMDB)

Justin: After the tear jerker of the previous episode (and the upcoming seriousness) the good Doctor needed something light and fluffy. The Lodger was just the right thing for that moment. A down to earth (or as down to earth as you can get with this show) episode filled with humor and love. I wouldn't want every episode to be like this, but I value them when they are. 6 Sonics

Jaime: Craig! Soccer! This was a fun and entertaining episode that I really enjoyed. The Doctor and Craig have some great dialogue moments and this episode really is wonderful. It's nice to have an episode every once in a while without the Doctor's companion. 7 Sonics

Allison: This episode cracks me the hell up. I've seen it twice now and it's still as funny as ever. It's based on a comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine that Steven Moffat loved and asked the creator (Gareth Roberts) to adapt to an episode. The social awkwardness of the Doctor, especially when he's paired up with a typical "mate" type of guy, really brings to the fore Matt's comedic abilities and the odd alien nature of the Doctor. I really enjoyed the little love story lurking at the center of it, and found James Corden to be absolutely adorable. 8 Sonics

Average Sonics

x 7

Episode 12 & 13: The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang

River Song returns to deliver the Doctor a serious warning from his allies: the mythical Pandorica, said to contain the most feared creature in the entire Universe, is opening. The Daleks, Cybermen and others have imprisoned in the Pandorica the most dangerous creature in the universe - the Doctor, who they say will in the future destroy the universe. Moving to 1996, a preteen Amy Pond visits a museum with her Aunt and opens the Pandorica, only to find the adult version of herself inside. Traveling back and forth in time, the Doctor tries to make sense of it all and find River Song, who is also missing. He realizes that there is only one explanation for a starless universe. (IMDB)

Justin: I loved Smallville, but there were a bunch of episodes that were crap. I'm not sure what it was, but they were bad...then the last few minutes would happen and the writers wrote such a great ending that I didn't care about the boring or bad stuff that just happened. This is how I felt about these two episodes. It didn't matter if there were things I didn't care about during the fifth season, because--for me--the ending was so good it made up for it. I would say the second part was better than the first, but that might be mainly due to the fez. They are cool, right? 8 Sonics

Jaime: Another from my top ten. Part of my love for this episode is Rory. Oh Rory, who will do anything for Amy. I completely fell in love with those two in these episodes. I really began to care about them. And almost every villain/monster from the show is here to take down the Doctor. He's pretty incredible in this episode. I think Eleven finally is his own Doctor, though you see pieces of his past incarnations, he is completely come into himself and he is pretty awesome. And River is here. And there's a paradox. And the Doctor has to save the universe. There's a fez. And a mop. And, my personal favorite, time travel, a lot of time travel. 10 Sonics

Allison: Again, love that this Doctor has swagger. He's confident and dark and cocky, and when he stands on top of that Pandorica telling all his worst enemies to bring it, I was silently pumping my nerd fist with joy. Add in all the wonderful aspects already mentioned above, as well as the beautiful speech he leaves young, sleeping Amy as the cracks in the universe are closing, and the wedding at the end where Rory agrees that he's a Pond, and the dancing, and the Moffat trademark of being so timey-wimey it makes your head spin, and this is definitely the pinnacle of series five. I binge-watched this two parter, along with The Lodger and Vincent and the Doctor in the same night. I think I cried a gallon bucket of tears, and through that I was minted as a diehard fan. 10 Sonics

Average Sonics

x 9.3

Episodes Ranked Best to Worst
*Tied episodes are marked by color

1. Vincent and the Doctor
2. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
3. Amy's Choice
4. The Lodger
5. The Time of Angels/Flesh and Bone
6. The Eleventh Hour
7.  Victory of the Daleks
8. The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood
9. Vampires of Venice
10. The Beast Below

Overall Sonic Average for the Season

x 6.3

Ouch! This was a weak week, fo sho. In spite of some pops of greatness (the last four episodes of the show really are stupendous), this is our lowest ranking season since David Tennant's premier, which averaged 6.2 Sonics. I think it's mostly par for the course for a new Doctor's debut season as he tries to find his way and the viewers adjust to all the changes, and the showrunners adjust to showrunningness. But our little project is starting to wind its way to a close, with only two more seasons to review after this! Next week brings us The Impossible Astronaut and a whole lot more timey-wimey weirdness (and FEZZES) than you can shake a mop handle at. We look forward to seeing you, and as ever, please leave your comments below and let us know what you think!

Allison, Jaime, and Justin